Planning for college and your future career is a very daunting task for most high school students and their families. Fortunately, there are countless resources on the internet that can aid students throughout the process. However, there are so many resources available that selecting the best ones could also be a stressful task. Here are some of the best career and college planning resources I’ve encouraged my students to use and recommend to any other student looking for assistance.
College search resources
The best way to begin your search is to research some college choices through websites or printed guides. While conducting your search, ask a lot of questions of admission and financial aid representatives and school or private college counselors to help guide you. You can check out overall academic statistics by researching the Common Data Sets, which cover admission data, financial stats, and more; these should be posted on college websites. Some outstanding resources for researching colleges in addition to a school’s official website include:
- CollegeXpress (obviously)
- The Common App
- College Navigator
- College Scoops
- Coalition for College
Related: Your College Search Timeline
Test prep resources
In the college search process, most students also need to prepare to take the SAT or ACT. By researching college requirements, you should check to see if standardized tests are required for admission—especially with so many schools going test-optional. Never take standardized tests without serious preparation. Websites such as CollegeBoard.com and ACT.org provide testing information, sample questions, and practice tests for the ACT and SAT. Khan Academy also provides practice for the SAT and many other subjects through their app and website. Then there are websites like Method Test Prep, which provides various tutoring opportunities for testing. Additionally, The Princeton Review and Applerouth’s Tutoring Services both do a phenomenal job helping prepare students for standardized testing. Finally, check out FairTest.org for the latest updates on schools that are test-optional or test-blind for the upcoming application season.
College essay resources
An awesome way to learn about writing college essays is through the College Essay Guy (Ethan Sawyer) on his website. The College Essay Guy also has two fabulous books, College Admissions Essentials and College Essay Essentials; both can be found at on Amazon. He walks you through the most important factors of your college essay and how to craft one. Another great resource is All College Application Essays; this website and app provide the latest admission essay requirements for over 1,000 colleges all in one convenient place.
Colleges seek well-rounded students who will make meaningful contributions to campus; that’s why most schools require students to list extracurricular activities on their applications and include them on a résumé. Extracurricular activities help high school students develop their talents, interests, and even future careers. They can teach students practical skills including responsibility, commitment, and time management. Extracurricular activities also include summer experiences and community service. Some ideas for summer include college classes, performing or visual arts programs, career camps, private music lessons, and SAT or ACT preparation courses; check out TeenLife for additional opportunities and ideas. Students are also encouraged to go above and beyond their high school community service requirements for graduation to show colleges they’re dedicated and committed to giving back to society. VolunteerCrowd has a lot of innovative ideas to make a difference.
Financial aid resources
When researching colleges, students and their families must consider cost. But just because a school’s sticker price may seem out of reach doesn’t mean you should remove it from your college list. Financial aid and scholarships are available from many sources to help fund your post-secondary education. Some of the best websites for financial aid and scholarships are:
- studentaid.gov (where you file the FAFSA)
- CollegeBoard's CSS Profile
Career search resources
You can explore possible career pathways early in your college search by utilizing career interest inventories. A few websites to investigate include BigFuture as well as O*NET OnLine. The Occupational Outlook Handbook also offers outstanding and up-to-date information on careers. If you’re already prepared for your postgrad career, you’ll definitely be ready for college.
This is just a small sampling of the career and college planning resources that are available to students and families. When you have college- and career-related questions, contact school counselors, educational mentors, college admission counselors, and even college professors in your major area of interest. They’ll help you get the answers you need to accomplish your future college and career goals!
Find answers to all your college admission questions right here on CollegeXpress with the advice in our Ask the Experts section.